Free Holiday Fun

The Trail of Lights goes live today, with free nights until Dec. 15th.  The free nights are likely to be crowded, but given how much you might spend on a shuttle/admission/funnel cake/ferris wheel combo, braving the crowds is the frugal option!

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Other free holiday fun links:

They’ve got a light show on the hour from 6-11pm.

The Wimberley Trail of lights is at the Emily Ann Theater and is free.

The Minor Mishap Marching Band will have absolutely no holiday music to share as they celebrate the holiday season as only they can!

Minor Mishap is also holding a lantern parade on Dec 21st. Location is TBA so follow the event on Facebook to join in the fun.

The Central Presbyterian Church has a long-running free concert series every Thursday at noon. This month is all holiday themed, with this week’s performers The Austin Handbell Ensemble. It’s a short, lovely concert, perfect for families, and you can order up lunch for just a $5 donation ($3 kids).

A light show, carriage rides, and carolers are all scheduled nightly at the Domain.


Have you got a free holiday link to share! Let Cheepie know!


Congee: Stretching the Cheap into Super-Cheap!

Rice is cheap. Cheap is what we’re about here. It’s also going to cool off in a few (several?) weeks, which is when I start cooking in earnest. Breads, soups, curries, casseroles; I’m an equal opportunity carbohydrate-pusher.

Congee is something I came across several years ago, during a stretch of what we’ll call a dual-sabbatical time, and it’s a perfect lunch. It’s cheap as all get-out, and uses up leftovers that might otherwise go unappreciated.  I’d forgotten about it until I saw this post by a fellow Austin food blogger:


photo from Smoked Salt & Pepper

Look how beautiful this dish is! And how nicely she photographs her lovely meal! I need a class or something.  Or maybe new counters? It’s probably the counters throwing me off.

Congee is a rice porridge. “Porridge? Isn’t that for children in Dickens’ novels and nursery rhymes?”–I can hear your skepticism even through the internet, Cheepsters.  It is those things, but it’s also an excellent idea for you.  It’s as simple as it gets, it’s cheap, and you’ll never have to run out to the store to get something to make it, because it’s all in your house already.

Basically you cook rice with way more water than usual until the grains blur into each other. Yes, blur is the technical term we’ll be using here. You can use stock if you have some. You can start with cooked rice, and it’ll take a while.  If you don’t have any cooked rice, start with uncooked rice, and it’ll take longer. Happily, it doesn’t need attention at this point as a polenta might–bring it to a boil, set it to low and let it simmer.  I stir mine now and then and add more liquid if it needs some.  When it’s pasty it’s done.

That’s it. You made congee. Good for you!

It’s a bit dull at this point, though, so now is where you open the fridge and find the leftover roast pork, some soy sauce, and a few cilantro leaves. Then it looks like this:


If you’re like my friend up there, you top it with marinated soft-boiled eggs (yum!) and fried tofu.  Today, mine will get leftover chicken and vegetables.  Tiny, who thinks everything should have ‘shaky cheese’ , puts parmesan on hers.

Congee is agreeable to whatever you want and have in the fridge. Pickled onions and pulled pork? Sure. Leftover stir-fy? Why not. The weird end of pot roast that nobody wants?  Dice that up with a few garlic chives and call it lunch.

Math is Hard

I know math isn’t everyone’s thing. But if you’re a store, and you’ve got a box on the price tag for ‘unit price’, you should know what it means. At least make an effort at some type of calculation. Just putting the price of the item over there again makes it seem like you aren’t even trying. 

I know I’ve ranted on this topic before, but it’s a pervasive, persistent problem. I find examples of this every time I’m in a grocery store. 

Part of stretching a grocery budget is comparison shopping, and without unit prices (or with deceptive unit prices, or changes in ‘unit’ choices) that becomes more difficult. I have no problem pulling a calculator out to figure out what I need to know, but not everyone has my brand of commitment to knowing the answer to this particular problem. 

Maybe I should start writing the correct unit prices on tags? Guerrilla Grocery Correction–coming to a store near you!